THE York arts barge, the Selby Tony, has set sail for pastures new.

Project directors Christian Topman, Hannah West and Marcia Mackey waved her off for the journey to Knottingley, where she will undergo conversion works - transforming the former grain barge into an arts hub for the city.

Selby Tony was guided on her journey by tug Little Shuva.

Karl Acaster of Acaster Water Transport said: “We had to grab this short window of opportunity. The fresh water level had fallen 30cm overnight on Sunday and we expected it to rise again from all the rain on Wednesday.

Karl is a fifth generation bargeman and has spent his entire working life, alongside dad Graham, doing all aspects of river work, including dredging, towage and ship repairs.

He carried out the repairs to the hull in dry dock when she was first purchased by the project in 2013.

Over the coming year, Nathan Rumbold, of Hirst Boatbuilders in Knottingley, will fabricate the barge’s steel superstructure, before a basic fit-out and safety testing, after which she will return to York.

Project director Hannah West said: “It’s really exciting, after all the background preparation and community arts projects, to finally see the build work starting.

“It’s a huge step forward for the project, made possible by the generosity of the community.”

The project has raised enough to cover almost all the initial fabrication, but will continue to fundraise to cover the costs of the fit-out, which will include a lift and sustainable energy systems.

They must also find the money to build the mooring structure, which involves putting piles in the riverbed to secure the barge, and a gangplank access structure.

Project director Christian Topman said: “We’re aiming to open at Tower Gardens in April 2020 – contributing to the wider developments planned for the Castle Gateway area and adding a unique, community focused arts venue to York’s cultural scene.”